On New Year’s Day, the colorful and controversial televangelist Paula White faced her congregation at New Destiny Christian Center and predicted the changes coming to society in 2017 — to the church, the economy, the government.
Near the end of the litany, she told her predominantly African-American megachurch members just outside Orlando: “God is not going to change the government. He’s going to send someone to do it.”
From White’s perspective, that may already be underway, a prophecy fulfilled.
For most people in America, including most churchgoers, Paula White is not yet a familiar name. That may change Jan. 20, when she delivers an invocation at the inauguration of Donald Trump.
“I will be humbled to stand shoulder to shoulder on stage with the new administration, other distinguished men and women of faith, and with the great sea of witnesses watching around the country and around the world who continue to pray for God to bless America,” she said in a statement last week.
“On that sacred day, we will ask God to guide our leaders with wisdom and strength and that He would richly bless our extraordinary home, the United States of America.”
White, an early and enthusiastic Trump backer, organized national gatherings of evangelical leaders on his behalf and spoke at a Trump rally on the campus of the University of Central Florida. She also delivered the benediction on the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
White will be only the second woman to pray at an inauguration. And, together with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International, who will deliver another of the inaugural benedictions, she will be among the few outspoken advocates of the “prosperity gospel” to appear at an inaugural in recent memory.
The prosperity gospel is a controversial theology that views the cosmos as the equivalent of a divine slot machine, but with a guaranteed payoff. That is, you contribute a “seed offering” to the church and the pastor, and riches follow. If the giving is sometimes “sacrificial” — more than you can afford — so be it.
As recently as last week, White sent an email appeal to ministry supporters, asking them to contribute some “first fruits” of their harvest.
“God is speaking clearly to someone right now. Do not hesitate. Your sacrificial offering will be a seed for blessings for the remainder of the year. According to Ezekiel 44, when you present your First Fruits offering, it will cause a blessing to rest upon your house!”
White has drawn strong criticism within the evangelical community. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has denounced her as a “charlatan” and a “heretic” for endorsing the prosperity gospel.
Evangelical blogger Erick Erickson wrote, “I’d rather a Hindu pray on Inauguration Day and not risk the souls of men, than one whose heresy lures in souls with promises of comfort only to damn them in eternity.”
In an aside, perhaps responding to such criticism, White told some 400 New Destiny worshippers in the cavernous sanctuary Sunday (Jan. 1), “I don’t believe prosperity is money.” Rather, she says, it is well-being.
White differs fundamentally from other prominent evangelical Trump backers, such as Jerry Falwell Jr., of Liberty University; Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas; and Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.
Although Politico magazine described her as Trump’s “God whisperer,” White has thus far shown no interest in power or political influence, no desire to set social policy or pick future Supreme Court justices.
What she does care about is flash, and her long-standing personal connection to the president-elect.
But the main thing White shares with Trump – apart from faith, which some in the religious community doubt – is the celebrity gene.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service